So much difficulty, suffering, and effort would be alleviated if we understood in our organisations that culture is not something we can implement, roll-out, instill, or command. It cannot be programmed nor demanded other than through force, coercion, intimidation and fear (a topic that totalitarian states know about only too well), methods which themselves can produce only rigid, stuttering, repressed cultures that serve only the few.
Culture is not a thing, an object, or an entity that has an existence separate from us. We cannot stand on the outside of it, analysing or directing it as if we were not involved. It is born of our participation. It arises from the conversations, promises, commitments, practices and intentions we have towards one another. And it is sustained and created anew in every moment by our acts of relating and responding to those around us – every one of which is either an act of sameing or an act of changing.
If we understood this – if we saw that cultures develop through many tiny living experiments in speaking, listening and interacting – we might relax our efforts to ‘manage’ change the way we do, or our demands that someone else sort out culture on our behalf. We would give up waiting, complaining, until there was more ‘communication’, or until ‘they’ saw the light. And perhaps we would find ourselves stepping in – seeing that although we could never know quite what the outcome would be, every act is an opportunity to tell a new story, to experiment, and to invite a new conception of who we are, who others are, and what there is to do.